This is important.

Maybe it’s just because I read this article while swilling down my morning coffee, but it literally got my heart pounding. Essentially, Siva is sketching the outlines of a new academic field – Critical Information Studies – that exists at the intersection of many others, from ComSci to the classical social sciences to law and public policy. Why does this excite me so? Because to a great extent, the field that he describes runs parallel to the course of study that I have been navigating my way through here at Michigan – not the field prescribed by my program, or even by my specialization, but a vaguely tangential sub-area that draws somewhat more on my Anthro background and non-SI interests.

And his citation list? That’s my bookshelf. (And those works that aren’t on the shelf yet are on my Amazon wish list.) Hell, some of those authors have been my professors.

There is only one quibble I would make with Siva’s excellent manifesto: I feel like scholarship on archival and library science would have more to add to such a field than is apparent from his initial bibliography. The issues of preservation and reuse, digital archiving and dissemination, and the persistence of modern information formats – among many others – seem highly relevant to the discussion he proposes. As Siva is undoubtedly – indeed, demonstrably – aware, there can be no reuse and repurposing of information if nobody preserves it.

So, hubristically, some names I’d like to see in that bibliography: Margaret Hedstrom, Michael Buckland, John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, Verne Harris, Geoffrey Bowker, Susan Leigh Star, Linda Argote… [Full disclosure: these specific names all appear on the syllabus for SI 504 (Social Systems & Collections); however, many, if not most, of these individuals have written a number of things applicable to the topics Siva discusses (both assigned for 504 and not).]

But in general, it’s exhilarating to see someone actually framing this set of issues into a more defined shape. Heck, if it accomplishes nothing else, it will at least give me something to point to when my relatives ask what on earth it actually is that I’m studying in school…


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